Word Count 499
By Sharon Collins
My daughters and I feed Yysha of late. Even the honeyed red-fruits do not tempt her. She eats only the long-eared-hoppers that we hunt. She roasts them only to get thin bones for her sewing tools. Ever since the awful night of the mock-battle, she sits in the sun and making tools or stringing the yellow-brights into necklaces. We all wear a necklace now. The clearest yellow-brights glow like embers against Pine’s black fur. The brightest ones, like the low flowers which turn to moons and spread their seeds far, nestle against Frost’s white fur. Storm wears one too. His looks like drops of red sunset or blood against gray fur. How I wish not to remember that night, but I do.
The girls are so strong, so quick, so daring. Poor Storm, ever the timid watcher, wanted to join in their play. At first he was hesitant and the girls were gentle, but in his excitement and confidence he bit too hard . The welling of blood wet against Frost’s white fur, glistened in the firelight. She cried and Pine, ever her sister’s protector, leaped on Storm. They tumbled together, a growling ball of gray and black. Play grew serious and Frost joined. Sharp teeth connected, cries and fur flew everywhere. Yysha was frozen with fear. The girls were trying to kill their brother. I could not reach her mind to assure her that this was the Law of the Forest. The strong survive; the weak do not. The girls are strong. Storm is not. I knew this day would come. I should have warned Yysha, but I did not. Although her courage is mighty, her heart is soft. I did not want to break it before it was necessary. Yysha cried out to the children to stop. She sang their names loud and clear; the echoes are still trapped in the darkest reaches of the cave. She cried out to me to make them stop. When I did not, she sang my name and her song was full of anger and judgement. But I am bound by the Laws. The Law of the Forest is one of the cruelest. I could not interfere. When I did not act, Yysha did. For her sake, I wish she had not.
Yysha leaped toward the snarling tangle, pulling my children apart, paying no heed to the blood dripping from her own hands. Just as she would get one detached, the other would leap back in trying to tear at Storm’s throat. Finally wedging herself between the girls and my poor son, she crouched at the mouth of the cave. The girls paced, growling their threat and throwing shadows everywhere. They frightened even me. Yysha kept backing shielding Storm. His whimpering was heartbreaking; her howling deafening. It mattered not. The girls lunged together; Yysha stood absorbing their attack. They struck her, knocking her to the floor and scrambled over her. Storm shrank back, not understanding how near the edge he was.